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Franklin Graham: Japan disaster could mean end is near
Franklin Graham suggested the earthquake in Japan could be a sign of the end times.
March 21st, 2011
04:20 PM ET

Franklin Graham: Japan disaster could mean end is near

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

The Rev. Franklin Graham says the earthquake and tsunami in Japan could be a sign of the end times. The key word there is could. The founder of the Samaritan's Purse charity told Newsmax on Friday:

What are the signs of [Christ’s] second coming? War and famine and earthquakes … escalating like labor pains. ... Maybe this is it, I don’t know. We should pray and be vigilant. The Bible teaches us Jesus is going to return someday. Many of us we believe that day is sooner rather than later. 

Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, is paraphrasing from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. In Chapter 24, Jesus is leaving the temple in Jerusalem and predicts its destruction. His disciples ask when it will happen, and he answers:

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. 

There are several schools of thought in the Christian tradition on this passage. One suggests Jesus is talking about the coming destruction of the temple by the Romans; others view it as a warning sign of the end times.

Throughout the course of Christian history, many have read the words of Jesus into their own time. Graham is certainly not alone in his interpretation of the passage, nor is he outside the mainstream of most Christian traditions by hedging his assertion with "maybe" and "I don't know" instead of giving a definitive, "This is the end!"

The Rev. Tom Stegman says there are many ways to read the passage in Matthew 24. A Jesuit priest and associate professor of New Testament at Boston College, Stegman agrees with Graham that Christians ought to remain vigilant in how they live their lives so they line up with Christ's teaching.

“I don’t question anyone’s motivation. However, the history of interpretation of apocalyptic texts and Jesus' speculation about the end in Mark 13 ought to give us pause in involving ourselves too much in speculation of the end times,” Stegman told CNN.

Darrell Bock, a research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, said the passage is one repeated in Mark and Luke as well. But, Bock said, “Matthew is the clearest when talking about the end because of the way the questions start off the discourse at the beginning of the passage.”

Bock said the text Graham quoted from is layered. Unlike other apocalyptic texts like the Book of Daniel or Revelation, which many Christians believe prophesy the end times in vivid detail, here Jesus has more than one goal.

“I think you have to be careful. Jesus is trying to do two things at once,” Bock said. Jesus is talking about the end times and using these examples “to create in people a responsibility of not knowing when the end will come.”

"[Jesus] is telling [his disciples] to persevere because they don’t know when the end will be," Bock said. “It’s never an attempt to have us calendar out when the end is going to happen.

“I actually think what Graham is doing is raising the accountability issue,” Bock added.

Eddie Gibbs, a professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, told CNN Graham could represent "a particular segment of the evangelical movement that thinks the end is near."

"My response would be to say the Matthew 24 passage in fact relates to every period of history. There have always been catastrophic earthquakes," Gibbs said.

"The many natural catastrophes that occur are really warning sings to us that life is fragile. I think modern people need that warning. When these awful things happen, it is a reminder that nature is far, far more powerful than our ability to control it."

Gibbs said he does not think the earthquake in Japan augurs the end of the world.

"I would personally regard it as a progressive fulfillment, not that this is a special fulfillment of 'end times.' These catastrophes continue to happen, and I think we need them to shake us out of our comfort zone."

“I think that on Franklin’s side, we do need that reminder today that we live in a finite world,” Gibbs said.

Regardless of Graham's beliefs, his aid organization continues to be on the front lines of disasters around the world.

Last week, Graham's charity shipped 90 tons of relief supplies to Japan. As with many other organizations, working in the hardest-hit areas has brought elevated concerns for safety. Graham told Newsmax:

I’ve told my staff, if any of you are nervous you don’t have go. ... I haven’t had one person back out. There are dangers wherever we go in the world, but as Christians we put faith in God. He’s called us to do this work. He’ll look after us and protect us. It’s not going to stop us from responding and helping. 

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church

soundoff (1,412 Responses)
  1. John Richardson

    Franklin Graham and his ilk are irresponsible idiots. The world will LONG outlive this cult called Christianity. And by that, I don't just mean this planet, but the people on it.

    March 22, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • silvia

      maybe your are the idiot John.., maybe you should read the Bible...to get the inf...for yourself. God's mercy is for everybody!!!.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Mabraham

      Christianity is not a cult, or even a religion. It is a relationship, relationship with Jesus Christ.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Jarrod

      It's a cult by definition. Any religion centered around a man believed to be divine is a cult. Christianity believes Jesus to be divine so that is a cult.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • ronad fury

      John, You're right. He is jusy another nut case!

      March 22, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Sandeep

      These priests will do anything to scare people into submission.. this is ridiculous.. the entire religious texts are written to subdue people and make them pay for temples, churches and mosques.. I do not know why CNN pander to such nonsensical and utterly ill motives.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • laurab68

      John I couldn't agree more!

      March 22, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Carla Medina

      Be specific who is the idiot-Graham and YOU. Shame on you. America is basically Christian. You should go live in China and Russia or Darfur. You'll be at home-not here!!!

      March 22, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Jack

      Graham and his ilk are not "irresponsible," as you have it. To be genuinely responsible presumes that one is sane, objective and of clear vision. Rational judgment so thoroughly clouded by this culty "religious" mumbo-jumbo precludes that for these people. The only difference between Graham and the average ooga-booga snake-handler is that he can keep it together just enough to impart (and profit from) a veneer of respectability. Otherwise, he's as full of crap as the garden variety Moonie.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Randy Vaughn

      One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker. — Voltaire (1694-1778)

      Doubters live and die but the bible "GOD's Word" is eternal.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  2. IceT

    The Bible says to Fear and Love God. I teach my children to never get into a relationship that involves both Fear & Love!

    March 22, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  3. gIZZLE

    Yes, This is a very exciting time for Christianity indeed!!!

    March 22, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  4. Religious sects

    I think he's absolutely correct...everyday we ARE closer to the end. Each day is one day down with a few hundred or billions of days to go!

    March 22, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  5. mderricotte

    Belief is a fairy tale or what you can force your mind to accept, knowing that you are a microb with limitations on this earth. Ive not meet or seen guaranteed after life. But death is final, and It's O.K not to have any after life, that is a guarantee.

    March 22, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • macj121

      Why do you believe that it is a 'fairy tale' ... how do you know you are right ... what if you are missing something? I lose nothing if I am wrong ... what will you lose?

      March 22, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  6. Mike

    No one knows or can predict the hour or the day. Only God knows. We have had many periods in our history when there were multiple earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, famines and multiple wars going on at the same time. We are still here, and probably will be through many more times such as these. The end will come when the end will come. Live your lives right and you may be justly rewarded. Come on folks, have a little faith for crying out loud. Have a great day!!

    March 22, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  7. Nero Claudius

    Yaaaay! The Cosmic Zombie Death Cult of the Desert has something else to look forward to. You christians are the most pathetic lot. "This Generation Shall Not Pass, Till All These Things be Fulfilled." Matthew 24:34 Wrong thousands of years ago and wrong today. Why don't all of you just get together and do it Jim Jones style and save the rest of us your silliness. Thanks.

    March 22, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  8. mderricotte

    It has to end sometime.

    March 22, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  9. Derek

    What kills me is that they read Bible versus about the "End" 2000 years ago. The Earth is going to do what she wants, we humans just happen to be in the way. This is such elementary thinking that you have to wonder what Franklin Graham really wants. To be a prophet of doom just like his dad Billy! Gotta keep that Family business going!

    March 22, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • DinWeez

      "Profit of doom?" No, more like profit from doom.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • macj121

      Do you actually understand the magnitude of good that his organisation does around the world? What do you do?

      March 22, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  10. rabid goon

    god is make believe.

    March 22, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  11. Alex

    Yes, because there have NEVER been tsunamis in the entire history of the Earth. Brand new things, earthquakes and tsunamis. I have no idea why they happen. My guess is its God's wrath and a sign of the end times. That's a whole lot more sensible than shifting plates in the Earth's crust and volcanic activity beneath the surface. Everyone knows the only thing under the ground is Hell!

    March 22, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • tweezer

      Well-put, Alex!

      March 22, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  12. DrDivine

    Why does a supposedly reputable (and I thought, the only place I can really trust online other than the NYT) outlet like CNN give this blowhard the time of day? WHY WHY WHY? Religious crackpots have been predicting doomsday since BEFORE the days of Christ. Please don't report on this crap. It's NOT news.

    March 22, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  13. In Reason I Trust

    They should just rename this Section CNN Gullible Blog. It's one ridiculous article after another of childish beliefs given unnecessary attention. This man's father was a crook who spread his mind virus for profit and now his son is cashing in as well and CNN just gave him a stage to do it.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  14. Adrian GMV

    Man, maybe they need to change the name of this site from "belief blog" to "The Atheists Corner" Do you guys alert one another when there is a new article for you to bash? You all are so wise and all knowing.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • Lainey0828

      Here here!

      March 22, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • tweezer

      At least some of us have enough common sense to think for ourselves. This is one bubble that I don't mind bursting. Religion is Big Business. People are being scammed. Sadly, it's so traditional that people actually believe it and are AFRAID to let a glimmer of reality into their little closed minds. As soon as you "believe" something, you've just closed the door on everything else.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • DinWeez

      Maybe alerting one another is not necessary. Maybe there are just so many more athiests than you think.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Derek

      You kidding? When an Article like this comes along about talk of the end of days, some folks tend to be skeptical. It has nothing to do with Atheism, its common sense. I am sure people get fired up because there are those like yourself that believe this crap and unfortunately some of us have to keep kicking you that your too old to believe in Santa. But we need people like you to stay off the highway's when I am headed to a game on Sunday!

      March 22, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  15. Tony

    That's what revs do. They talk about the bible.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • laurab68

      Ok I still want to know something.....According to this story book you call the Bible...The lord made Adam and then made Eve. They had 2 sons, Cain and Abel. They had no other children, just 2 sons and that's it. So where did their wives and everyone else come from if there were only 4 people on this entire earth and one son killed the other? Logic states that unless Eve was a very busy girl, it's physically impossible, and that there would be too much inbreeding as there was not enough new genetic material to reproduce without mass birth defects.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  16. David

    Jesus is Lord. one day every knee will bow every tongue confess that He alone is the Lord. There is no other name under Heaven by which man can be saved. The earthquake and tsunami are indeed a sign of the times. One day the Lord will remove His Church from this world. (1st Thessalonians 4:16-18) Those that are left behind will be brought under strong delusion and follow in the ways of the Anti-Christ. Today is the day of Salvation. Receive Jesus into your heart today. Admit you are a sinner and cannot save yourself. Pray and ask Jesus to be Lord of your life. We do not know how much time we have left on this earth, nobody does. But if you were to realize that this life is only a dress rehearsal for eternity, and that eternity is longer than we can wrap our minds around, you would get right with the Lord today.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • TexanKjun

      Amen!

      March 22, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  17. tweezer

    Fear-mongering is big business! A tax-free Big Business! It's ridiculous that people in the 21st Century still cling to this silly security blanket called "religion". Even the ones who claim to be "spiritual but not religious" are fooling themselves, with not a shred of evidence.. Their big egos can't stand it that we'll all be dead someday, so they make up "heaven" for the good ones. Hahaha.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • macj121

      What does he lose if he is wrong about his faith – helped millions around the world and tried to be a good and compassionate guy. What will happen if you are wrong?

      March 22, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Bryan

      @Macj121 – Nothing will happen if he is wrong or if the religious are right. That's the point. There is no eternal salvation or damnation. There is only material existence. Pascal's gambit has been soundly refuted on many occasions already, but here once again and on the following grounds:

      1.) You do not choose a belief. Beliefs are arrived at through hard won knowledge, observation, and experience. It would be (one assumes) easy for an omniscient god to see through my ruse of believing to avoid the punishment of hell, no? So, I cannot choose to believe something that I do not.

      2.) Both the believer and the non-believer are equally imperiled by their position. What if you have chosen the wrong god? What if the Hindu's are correct and you are punished for being so easily duped? In that case, you as the believer and I as the atheist are both in the deep end of the lake of fire. Or perhaps we are just dead, period.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • macj121

      Did you get this from your Intro to Philosophy class ... is this supposed to impress me?

      Contrary to what post-mod has tried to birth, there is 'Truth' and 'Right & Wrong' ... someone will be wrong and someone will be right ... If I am wrong than no one will know and I won't care ... if you are wrong unfortunately you will know and care.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  18. Nasdaq7

    He so desperately wants to believe in religion, he says the end is near. Jesus also thought the end was near, "all this will come to pass in 2000 years, I mean this generation."

    March 22, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • macj121

      I don't believe he 'wants to believe' ... he does believe.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  19. His

    "...knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."
    For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. "
    ~ 2 Peter 3:3-9

    March 22, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • justaperson

      That's just what they put in there (you know, those people who wrote the bible and probably snickered while doing it) to convince "believers" that logical thought processes should be ignored later on when only idiots still believe in god and run around getting mad at all the people who are laughing at them (aka, the scoffers).

      March 22, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • ziggyzoo

      You can't see the problem using quotes from the bible to challenge atheists?

      March 22, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  20. Robert

    Till when? When are we going to stop listening and believing all the non-sense of faith and religion?

    March 22, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • macj121

      Why do you believe it is non-sense?

      March 22, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • R

      I believe one day spiderman will come and make huge web for us to survive when everything will be destroyed. Superman will give support to the web and bat man will fight evil. There is not God or Allah, but superman, spiderman and batman. Because of ignorance people do not believe in it. But it is scientifically proved that all 3 can exists. In future los angelas will be called Gotham city and will become pilgrimage for trinity (Super, Spider and Bat man). You are all wrong. Look to science answer. I found it at last and found the peace. Please leave all religions and worship trinity (Super, Spider and Bat man).

      March 22, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • eric

      my point...cnn's followers are majority democrat, anti-relgion, athiests...

      So Sad!

      It has got to be miserable being a democrat....God forgives and saves so its never too late.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • macj121

      I feel sad for you ... I really do.

      If I am wrong what have I lost and what will it matter – trying to be a compassionate person with morals. If you are wrong what do you lose? I will be praying for you today, Robert.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • laurab68

      The earth is changing all the time and it has nothing to do with religion. The earth was formed way before people and it will be here way after we have left this planet. If believing in a religion gives you a sense of peace and belonging, then go with it as I do not begrudge anyone their faith as long as it's not shoved down my throat personally. Everyone has a right to their beliefs, whether they believe in God or not. No one is right or wrong as no one has ever actually gone to heaven or met God and come back to tell about it.
      Ok seriously, if a man were to claim he was the return of Jesus Christ, guess what would happen....he would be thrown into the closest mental facility available. How do we know he is not there right now being overloaded on drugs to keep his rantings quiet?

      March 22, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Religious sects

      macj121... what do morals have to do with religion? Seriously, morals are drawn from human society and are ever evolving, they are not something created by religion.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • macj121

      You are right ... morals don't have anything to do with it, but acceptance of Jesus Christ does ... I cannot be 'good enough' to gain eternal life.

      However, my other point was that if I am wrong about Christ then what does it matter ... my faith inspired me to live in a good manner and I don't lose.

      If someone rejects Christ and is wrong there are eternal consequences.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:05 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.